A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre to play here

Veteran British actress Janie Dee takes on double roles in A Midsummer Night's Dream by Globe Theatre

One of the two roles award-winning actress Janie Dee will take on in A Midsummer Night's Dream is fairy queen Titania (second from far left).
One of the two roles award-winning actress Janie Dee will take on in A Midsummer Night's Dream is fairy queen Titania (second from far left). PHOTO: SIMON KANE

British thespian Janie Dee has been in the industry for almost 30 years and has two Olivier Awards under her belt, including a Best Actress accolade in 1999 for her lead role in the Alan Ayckbourn play, Comic Potential.

Her turn as the android Jacie Triplethree in Comic Potential also garnered her the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Awards, a hat-trick accomplishment in the British theatre scene.

But ask Dee what the highlight of her career is and she will tell you it is her current role in A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

"It's the first time I'm doing something of this scale where we're touring for two months. Doing this is a huge event for me," says the 52-year-old.

The touring production travelled to China and Russia last month and will be staged here this week before moving to Hong Kong.

The Singapore leg is presented by ABA Productions, its second presentation of a Globe Theatre production here following last year's The Taming Of The Shrew.

Midsummer is directed by Dominic Dromgoole, the Globe's artistic director since 2006. It is a reworking of its 2013 staging also helmed by Dromgoole.

The William Shakespeare play tells the tale of four lovers who get caught in the middle of a brawl by the royal couple of fairies, Oberon and Titania.

Throw in some love spells, mistaken identities and a gang of amateur actors, and hilarity ensues. But there are also serious underlying themes about love, war and marriage.

Dee will play dual roles as Titania, queen of the fairies, and Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Acting opposite her is Aden Gillett, as Oberon, king of the fairies, and Theseus, Duke of Athens.

Speaking to Life! from her London home on a cold morning, Dee says she "jumped at the chance" to play Titania. "I've seen it many times - it's always been staged every summer, somewhere. I thought to myself, 'I could play Titania one day.'

"My agent said, 'You won't want to do this - you want to be at home with your children', but I said 'Hang on, no no no, this is something special.'"

Dee is married to fellow actor Rupert Wickham and they have two children - daughter Matilda, 18, and son Alfie, 10. She will be taking her son to Singapore for the run of the production.

The actress says despite the play being written in 16th-century Shakespearean English, it has enjoyed warm reception from its audiences in multiple cities, such as Kaohsiung in Taiwan and Pskov in Russia.

"Each city is so different, but the audience has embraced us. We were slightly worried that the language barrier would be a problem, but in the end, the audience is always happy and everyone is clapping," says Dee.

She attributes this to the effort the team has put in to bring the richness of the world of Midsummer to the audiences - from ensuring that the actors understand the meaning of each line they deliver to the set design that aims to make "you feel like the Globe Theatre is in your theatre".

The Elizabethan costume designs by Jonathan Fensome also help create the immersive experience.

Though the Esplanade Theatre is not open-air like the Bankside Globe stage in London, a miniature version will be recreated, complete with the Globe theatre's iconic pillars and balcony, and hand-painted details.

Says Dee of the parallels between the play and her experience as an actor in this production: "The play brings together three different worlds - the royalty, the workers and the fairies - and somehow they are all connected by the end of the show, like how we feel connected with the audience. In 21/2 hours, a handshake is really made."

She enjoys playing the two characters who are powerful women.

"I enjoy the full-bodiedness of these women. In Hippolyta, you see her as a queen fighting with a bow and arrow. Titania is looking to be seen as an equal, to have a voice."

The actress counts herself lucky to be working with Gillett again. The pair is reuniting on stage for the fifth time, having co-starred before in productions such as 2005's Much Ado About Nothing directed by Peter Hall, playing bickering couple Benedick and Beatrice.

"We have a fantastic connection. In fact, when he got the part, he rang me and said he thought I had asked to work with him. I hadn't," adds Dee with a laugh.

She reveals that the show varies from night to night, as the actors sometimes vary their movements on stage. The levels of audience interaction and emotional intensity of the scenes also vary.

"You can't change the words, but you can change slightly the amount of anger you're feeling, for example. One night Aden was so angry, I was seriously scared," admits Dee.

"It was very powerful, it was very fresh. You never know what's going to happen."


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